Defra is aiming to reduce its animal health budget from 244million in 2011/12 to 199m in 2014/15, as part overallDepartmental cuts of 30 per cent by 2014/15. With bTB, at a cost of approximately 100m a year, comfortablyaccounting for the biggest share of this budget, it is a primetarget for cuts. The question of how these savings could be made was debated as partof a wider discussion on Defra s TB eradication package at a TBstakeholder meeting hosted by the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) last week. AHWBE chairman Michael Seals described the extremely open meeting as the first stage in a process of coming up with newapproaches to TB controls in England. He stressed that the discussions surrounding the budget, details ofwhich were outlined in a presentation by Defra officials, weresimply be about passing costs onto farmers. |
He said that, while compensation payments, for example, could becut, this might not be necessary if the whole control programmecould be run more efficiently. We went through all the various options to enhance theeradication plan, including delivering testing and compensation andfarmer calls to speed up the removal of reactors from farms, hetold Farmers Guardian. But there are no hard and fast plans. We are open to new ways ofworking.
We are looking for industry to come forward with theirideas. For example, do we have to have a hugely bureaucratic system ofcontrols and decision-making processes, when some aspects couldeasily be handled by the farmer. It is far easier for a farmer toorganise the removal of animals from his farm than some centralorganisation. NFU vice president Adam Quinney said farmers wanted transparencyfrom Defra if it wanted to shift bTB costs onto farmers. He pointedout that only about a third of the TB budget went on compensation,with a similar amount on testing, while nearly 20 per cent wasaccounted for by administrative costs, an area where he suggestedAHVLA could make improvements.
Farmers would quite rightly say they are not prepared to payadditional costs where they have no clarity on the costing orcertainty that the money is being spent correctly. But he said the industry was keen to have a say in how the TBcontrol programme could be run more effectively, including getting ahead of the curve in keeping TB out of clean areas andusing rural development funding for certain TB-related costs, suchas cattle handling. The European Commission now contributes 31m towards the UK sTB control programmes, money that is dependent on the contents ofthe TB strategies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Mr Sealssaid the Commission was keen to see credible wildlife controlprogrammes in place, as well as effective cattle controls.
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